The psychology of a bully

GEORGE TOWN: Social, emotional and cognitive factors all swirl about in a complex combination that makes up the psychology of a bully.

Universiti Sains Malaysia criminologist Datuk Dr P. Sundramoorthy said social factors were major contributors to bullying cases in schools.

“In a school environment, hostile attitudes may be directed towards fellow students who do not fit in within a specific peer group,” he said.

“Students who possess undesirable physical traits, or who are seen as weak, are typical victims.”

He added that bullying asserts the bullies’ social dominance as it gives them a sense of power and control over their victims.

These bullies, he said, will then traumatise their victims via social dominance.

Sundramoorthy also said emotions such as anger, frustration and anxiety are strongly correlated with bullying in schools.

Stop bullying: a flashback to an article about teens being bullied. experts are calling on parents, students, teachers and law enforcement agencies to work together to prevent bullying from taking place.Stop bullying: a flashback to an article about teens being bullied. experts are calling on parents, students, teachers and law enforcement agencies to work together to prevent bullying from taking place.

Children who are poorly nurtured and guided at home regardless of family background may suffer from emotional problems and may be more likely to engage in bullying than others.

“Bullying may be an expression of their own personal frustration or anger and a release of pent-up emotions.

“Additionally, students who lack emotional intelligence or empathy for others may struggle to understand the impact their actions have on others, leading to a lack of remorse or regret,” he added.

Sundramoorthy said cognitive factors are often overlooked – this is when certain individuals possess “distorted thought patterns” that may influence their behaviour.

Bullying is thus a way of asserting superiority over those they consider to be inferior.

He said some students may have difficulty controlling their impulses or lack self-control, and this can lead to bullying or other aggressive behaviour.

He said the criminological perspective on school bullying is complex as often multiple factors contribute to this problem.

“An effective way to address the issue of bullying in schools is by implementing preventative measures such as social-emotional learning programmes that promote empathy and conflict resolution skills,” he added.

Sundramoorthy said that it is critical to address the root causes of bullying, which include the social, emotional and cognitive factors mentioned above.

He noted that through early intervention and targeted support, schools can help minimise, control and prevent unwarranted incidents of bullying, and the authorities must also create a safer learning environment in schools.

“Bullying remains a widespread social problem in schools worldwide and Malaysia is not immune to this issue. It can cause long-lasting harm to the mental and social well-being of the victims.

“It is important that all stakeholders, including parents, students, teachers and law enforcement agencies work together and initiate and implement effective strategies to prevent bullying from taking place, “ he said.

In a front-page report yesterday, The Star highlighted findings from the recently released National Health and Morbidity Survey: Adolescent Health Survey 2022, which found that one in five adolescents in Malaysia had bullied or harassed somebody through the Internet, mobile phone or other electronic devices.

Commissioned by the Health Ministry’s Institute for Public Health, the survey involved 33,523 secondary school students aged 13 to 17.

The findings led to experts urging parents and schools to guide the youngsters on proper online etiquette, which they say is lacking and has contributed to cyberbullying.

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psychology , bully , social


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